By Naeisha Rose
Frank Francois, a former general contractor and public adjuster, is running against incumbent City Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and he wants to reorganize city government by giving power back to the people through his grassroots campaign.
Francois, a Green Party candidate has been a full-time activist since 2011 and works with organizations like the New Black Panther Party, the United Negro Improvement Association, the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, and Shut Down Rikers, just to name a few.
If elected as a councilman, Francois’ three main objectives include ending corporate control of politics, preventing police brutality and overhauling drug laws so that marijuana can be legalized for both medicinal and recreational use.
He became involved in activism after working on David Dinkins’ mayoral campaign in 1989, and he has not looked back since.
Francois boycotted Korean stores with activist Sonny Carson, after a Haitian woman was allegedly assaulted by a shopkeeper and marched with Al Sharpton against police brutality in Crown Heights.
He believes the only way to improve the district’s neighborhoods, which includes Cambria Heights, St. Albans, Laurelton, Hollis, Springfield Gardens and his hometown Queens Village is by getting big business out of politics. As a Green Party candidate, he self-finances his campaign and relies on small donations from residents in the area. He is not receiving matching funds from the Campaign Finance Board, according to the organizations website.
“We need to end the corruption of corporate controlled politics,” Francois said. “The special interest groups and the lobbyists spend a lot of money to make sure that the elected officials serve their needs at the demise of the masses.”
Francois believes despite the Campaign Finance Board’s attempts to help newcomers or less established candidates with matching funds in elections miss the mark. He cited former Comptroller John Liu’s failed mayoral bid, which came under scrutiny when Chinese businesses allegedly listed employees as donors for Liu’s campaign. This would have allowed Liu to receive more matching funds.
“This is why I joined the Green Party. They don’t take donations from big business and corporations. Therefore we are not controlled by them,” he said.
Francois wants an end to donations from big business and corporations in all future political campaigns and fears if the political system does not change, we will no longer have a democracy, but a plutocracy.
“This has become a cash fight,” Francois said. “There should be one single pool for everybody who is able to collect the signatures to draw from equally. You get on the ballot, then you are able to get equal access to funds.”
The grassroots candidate wants to tackle police brutality by getting the community involved.
He wants an independently elected civilian complaint review board, which will have oversight over the New York Police Department and question officers about wrongdoing. Francois believes officers suspected of misconduct should be suspended without pay immediately pending an investigation by the independent committee.
Similar to the military judiciary system, he wants independent full-time judges and prosecutors to handle law enforcement cases, but they must have no ties to police officers.
Francois contends the current review board does not work, because the mayor and the Police Department staff it.
He also wants mandatory drug testing for police officers and more community policing.
“You can look at some of them and tell they are on steroids,” Francois said. “They have shorter tempers and that’s a big problem.”
He wants smaller and less militarized police departments similar to the hamlets in upstate New York and Floral Park.
“When you look at some villages and hamlets, they have volunteer police officers,” Francois said. “Services are controlled locally, and you have a better grasp of what is going on.”
The other issues that Francois wants to tackle are mayoral control of schools, social services, and the environment.
He wants communities to control schools not the mayor or school boards, and for people within these towns to control the money for social services in their area.
“I like to see the community control the finances and control the budget,” Francois said. “This way the black communities and poorer communities will get exactly what they are entitled to, as opposed to a lot of it being siphoned off by white and richer communities.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose